GLOBAL LITHIUM WRAP: Sluggish demand for lithium hydroxide in China pushes price lower again; other markets broadly stable

The Chinese domestic lithium hydroxide price fell by 1.5% on Thursday February 28 due to unimproved downstream demand while the lithium carbonate market was steady week on week after most producers stood firm on offer prices.

  • The Chinese battery-grade lithium carbonate price was unchanged on steady producer offers. 
  • Lithium hydroxide prices drifted lower in China on thin buying activities. 
  • Industrial-grade carbonate materials price moved down in Qinghai region. 
  • Asian cif prices rangebound again.

The battery-grade lithium hydroxide market in China fell for a second consecutive week on Thursday, reflecting lower prices reported on the spot market due to sluggish demand in the downstream battery sector.

Fastmarkets assessed the battery-grade lithium hydroxide monohydrate (min 56.5% LiOH.H2O) ex-works China price at 95,000-103,000 yuan ($14,211-15,407) per tonne on Thursday, down from 96,000-105,000 yuan per tonne in the previous week. Prices have fallen by 4.8% since the start of February.

Meanwhile, China’s spot battery-grade lithium carbonate market continued its steady pattern this week with most producers maintaining their offer prices. On the buy side, most major downstream buyers have not placed big orders and only small volumes were reported in the latest pricing session on Thursday.

Fastmarkets assessed the Chinese domestic spot battery-grade lithium carbonate price (min 99.5% Li2CO3) at 73,000-81,000 yuan per tonne on Thursday, unchanged from previous week. The assessment has been steady in the current range since January 24.

“Battery-grade lithium carbonate prices remained steady this week and some major producers are unwilling to lower prices below 78,000 yuan per tonne. We are not in a hurry to buy materials and haven’t started purchasing,” a downstream buyer told Fastmarkets.

Industrial-grade lithium carbonate prices drifted lower this week after producers in Qinghai region decreased their offer prices. The price has fallen to 62,000-64,000 yuan per tonne, according to market participants.

Mainstream micronized lithium hydroxide prices were at 105,000-110,000 yuan per tonne this week, while lower prices of 100,000-102,000 yuan per tonne were heard from some suppliers who were eager to boost sales.

Micronized material is typically more expensive to produce than standard grade material. In China, Japan and South Korea battery makers have been requesting this material more often because it performs better in nickel rich batteries. This has kept prices for micronized battery-grade lithium hydroxide elevated.

Seaborne Asian lithium carbonate market quiet
The cif China, Japan and Korea battery-grade lithium carbonate assessment stabilized on Thursday after a 3.7% fall last week. The market was flat this week due to limited deals heard.

Fastmarkets’ battery-grade lithium carbonate (min 99.5% Li2CO3) price cif China, Japan and Korea was $12-14 per kg.

The hydroxide (min 56.5% LiOH.H2O) price was also steady week on week at $15-17 per kg on a cif China, Japan and Korea basis on Thursday, a level it has maintained since late November 2018.

“We send some inquires to customers in Japan and South Korea, but haven’t received any orders for the moment,” a China’s producer said.

European, US prices held steady on quiet buying
Demand did not pick up in the European and US spot markets this week, keeping prices stable within Fastmarkets’ current range.

Fastmarkets assessed the price of battery-grade lithium carbonate (min 99.5% Li2CO3), into Europe and the United States duty-paid, at $13-15 per kg on Thursday, while hydroxide monohydrate (min 56.5% LiOH.H2O) price was $15-17 per kg, both unchanged week on week.

Fastmarkets’ trade log for battery-grade lithium carbonate in China for February includes all trades, bids and offers reported to Fastmarkets.

Learn more about Fastmarkets’ lithium pricing methodology here and read the latest lithium price spotlight here.

All lithium carbonate, hydroxide and spodumene prices are available in our Battery Raw Materials Market Tracker. Get a sample of the report here.